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For rapid descents: ZHAW researchers develop high-tech ski wax

Designer molecule forms chemical bond

Sponsored by Innosuisse, researchers from the Institute of Materials and Processes at the ZHAW, in association with the TOKO company, developed a wax to solve this problem by building a new designer molecule through a chemical reaction. If this synthetic molecule is irradiated by a mercury-vapour lamp, the wax forms a tight bond with the ski surface and thus remains in place for longer. The molecule reacts to UV light and splits nitrogen, leaving highly reactive nitrene, which binds the wax to the low-reactive plastic.

Performance improves up to 1.5 per cent

Abrasion tests performed in the laboratory by ZHAW researchers proved that this photoreactive ski wax is indeed more durable than conventional wax. “The photoreactive ski wax proved to rub off twice as slowly as conventional high-performance ski wax,” according to Siegmann. The laboratory tests were followed by extensive field tests with ski specialists. The focus was on cross-country skiing because the boundary conditions could be monitored better. In cold weather conditions, the photoreactive ski wax showed the least friction. The time gain amounted to a saving of between 0.1 and 0.3 seconds in 20-second downhill runs, as compared with conventional high-performance ski wax. This equals an improvement in performance of up to 1.5 per cent. “This exceeded the improvement we had hoped for by far. The test runners didn't want to give back the photoreactive ski wax,” says Siegmann.

ZHAW ski wax to be used at the Olympics

Soon, these successful test runs could be reflected in new best times at tournaments. The ZHAW's photoreactive ski wax will be used at the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. Amateur skiers, however, will have to be patient.
“At present, applying the wax using mercury-vapour lamps is still too expensive,” Siegmann states. “As soon as the wax can be applied more economically, it will also be accessible to amateurs."

Peer-Reviewed-Artikel

Contacts

Dr. Konstantin Siegmann, Institute of Materials and Process Engineering, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone: 058 934 69 29, e-mail: konstantin.siegmann@zhaw.ch

Matthias Kleefoot, Public Relations, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone: 058 934 70 85, e-mail: medien.engineering@zhaw.ch